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Ukraine says Russia's agreed to open more escape corridors; Poland expels Russian diplomats

Meanwhile, Poland said Wednesday that it's expelled 45 Russian diplomats for spying.

Ukrainian service members stand beside a damaged building in a residential area after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 18. Photo by Vladyslav Musiienko/UPI | License Photo

March 23 (UPI) -- Ukraine agreed on Wednesday to a new deal with Russia to open several humanitarian corridors that can be used to evacuate refugees, officials said as Russia kept up attacks across the country.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a Facebook post that nine humanitarian routes will open in the Kyiv, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Luhansk regions.

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There was no mention of a corridor out of Mariupol, a southern port city that has been under constant Russian attack and where many civilians have been trapped.

Vereshchuk said that people in Mariupol, however, could find transportation out of the area in nearby Berdyansk.

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Meanwhile, Russian troops kept up shelling in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Wednesday and attempted to tighten their grip on Mariupol, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that at least 100,000 people are still trapped.

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Zelensky said that he and officials are doing "everything we can to free our people," according to The Washington Post.

Britain's defense ministry said that Russian forces are likely reorganizing now before resuming a large-scale offensive to advance from Kharkiv in the north and Mariupol in the south.

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Russia's ground attack is being aided by almost two dozen warships in the Black Sea that are firing cruise missiles into Ukraine off the Crimea coast, according to U.S. officials. NATO officials said the Belarusian military is now taking steps to enter the war to benefit Russia and could soon send troops into Ukraine.

The governor of the Luhansk region, in eastern Ukraine, also said Wednesday that Russia has agreed to a new local cease-fire to allow trapped civilians to leave. The governor, Serhiy Haidai, said in a post to Telegram that the truce would begin Wednesday morning.

Ukraine's chief prosecutors' office said in an update on Wednesday that at least 121 children have been killed in the country since Russia began its invasion on Feb. 24, and that close to 200 other have been injured.

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, in an interview with CNN, refused to commit to taking nuclear weapons off the table in the fight against Ukraine, saying that Moscow considers Ukraine to be an "existential threat."

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Pentagon spokesman John Kirby criticized Peskov's remarks and said the threat would not change the U.S. posture.

"It's not the way a responsible nuclear power should act," Kirby said, according to the Post.

U.S. President Joe Biden is traveling to Belgium on Wednesday for a NATO summit and a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda on Friday, a trip that's entirely focused on Russia's war in Ukraine.

Biden has sent hundreds of U.S. troops to Poland and other areas in Eastern Europe to support NATO forces and Ukraine and has warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against using biological and chemical weapons.

In Warsaw, Poland's interior minister said on Wednesday that 45 Russian diplomats suspected of posing as spies have been expelled from the country.

"Poland is expelling 45 Russian spies posing as diplomats," interior minister Mariusz Kaminski said in a tweet translated by Polskie Radio.

"With full consistency and determination, we are breaking up the network of Russian security-service agents in our country."

Scenes from the Russian war on Ukraine

European Union leaders attend a summit at the Chateau de Versailles near Paris on March 11, 2022. Photo by the European Union/ UPI | License Photo

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